SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
Our mission statement, copyright notice, and cast of characters.
Welcome NASAGA Members!
A welcome to new readers.
Audience participation begins before your lecture.
Six More Summaries
Outlines of six interactive lecture formats.
Provoking participants to see inconsistencies.
An Interview with Alan Richter by Les Lauber
A Scrabble champion talks about game design.
Words or graphics?
Our serial contest, part 2.
Let's Play It Again!
What makes a game addictive?
SERIOUSLY FUN ACTIVITIES FOR TRAINERS, FACILITATORS, PERFORMANCE CONSULTANTS, AND MANAGERS.
To increase and improve the use of interactive, experiential strategies to improve human performance in an effective, efficient, and enjoyable way.
Editor: Sivasailam (Thiagi) Thiagarajan
Assistant Editor: Raja Thiagarajan
Associate Editor: Les Lauber
Managing Editor: Brenda Mullin
Editorial Advisory Board: Andrew Kimball, David Gouthro, Diane Dormant, Julie England, Kat Koppett, Matt Richter, Steve Sugar, and <type your name here>
The materials in this newsletter are copyright 2002 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc. However, they may be freely reproduced for educational/training activities. There is no need to obtain special permission for such use as long as you do not reproduce more than 100 copies per year. Please include the following statement on all reproductions:
Reprinted from PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE. Copyright © 2002 by Workshops by Thiagi, Inc.
For any other use of the content, please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) for permission.
All registered subscribers receive PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE free of charge.
However, to prevent us from becoming bankrupt, we have decided to adopt a Busker Protocol. If you like what you read, if you find it useful, and if you'd like us to continue publishing the newsletter, please feel free to chip in with any financial contribution. Our estimated annual cost for this newsletter is $30,000. So we suggest an annual contribution of $30 (which is less than one-third the subscription cost of Thiagi's earlier paper-based newsletter). We would appreciate any amount that you send us, but make sure it is less than $30,000 (since we don't want to make a profit). You can mail your check to Thiagi, 4423 East Trailridge Road, Bloomington, IN 47408 or call us at (812) 332-1478 to charge the amount to a credit card. Or you can charge your credit card online, through Workshops by Thiagi, Inc. Please let us know if you need an invoice for financial record keeping.
Thiagi believes in practicing what he preaches. This is an interactive newsletter, so interact already! Send us your feedback, sarcastic remarks, and gratuitous advice through email to email@example.com . Thanks!
The Board of Directors of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) has recently authorized us to send announcements of PFP issues to the NASAGA mailing list. We welcome NASAGA members to our list of readers. If you are new to Play for Performance, please check out our masthead for information about this online newsletter.
If you are not a NASAGA member, we encourage you to join this wonderful organization. Having been a member of NASAGA for more than 30 years, I can strongly recommend it to anyone who is seriously interested in the use of interactive strategies for improving performance. Best of all, NASAGA membership is free!
The North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) is a growing network of professionals working on the design, implementation, and evaluation of games and simulations to improve learning results in all types of organizations. We believe in the value of learning gained through experience and feel that games and simulations, appropriately designed and conducted are an extremely useful tool for creating this rich learning.
NASAGA's primary mission is to facilitate the use of simulations and games and to spread the principles and procedures of interactive, experiential approaches to education, training, management, problem solving and decision making.
As a NASAGA member, you receive these benefits:
Online newsletters. You will have access to SIMAGES, NASAGA's quarterly online newsletter. SIMAGES has been edited by Randy Hollandsworth until recently. To review back issues of SIMAGES, please visit http://www.nasaga.org/simages.htm . Future issues of SIMAGES will be edited by Sivasailam Thiagarajan and an editorial board consisting of Raja Thiagarajan, Les Lauber, and Matt Richter with inputs and support from other NASAGA Directors.
Access to the NASAGA website. On this website, you will find a variety of resources, including articles, bibliographies, list of events, and links to websites.
NASAGA Listserv. You can communicate with other NASAGA members and for information and advice about specific games, simulations, schools, courses, and facilitators.
Annual Conference. NASAGA has been hosting an annual conference of simulation/game designers since 1962. The 2002 NASAGA Conference was held in San Diego during November 6-9, 2002. This conference was coordinated by Matt Richter, Terrie Scerbo, Alain Rostain, and others. A report on this successful conference will be published in the January 2003 issue of SIMAGES.
The 2003 NASAGA Conference (with the exciting theme Join the Circus) will be held in Montreal (at the Crown Plaza Montreal Centre) during October 15-18, 2003. Sonia Ribaux and Charles Dupont are coordinating the conference. For more information, visit http://www.nasaga.org/conference2003/index.htm .
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Mike Molenda invited me to address his group. A couple of days before the session, he sent me a list of questions collected from people who were planning to attend my presentation. This list provided valuable information about the needs of the audience and I eagerly got ready to review, organize, and sequence the questions. I realized, however, that the result is likely to reflect my priorities rather than the priorities of the audience. To avoid this (and to justify my laziness), I designed an interactive lecture format called Selected Questions in which audience members take on additional responsibilities to increase their feelings of ownership and accountability.
A list of questions (generated before the presentation) is reviewed, organized, and prioritized by audience members. You begin your presentation by answering the question selected by most participants. You repeat the process by responding to “popular” questions that are successively selected by the listeners.
This interactive lecture format is especially useful when
Prepare a list of questions. Type up the questions collected by the organizers. Sort the list in alphabetical order to ensure a random sequence of questions. Number each question in serial order. Review the questions to get a feel for audience levels of interest and knowledge.
Distribute the list of questions. Give a copy of the list to each participant.
Explain what you are planning to do and why you are doing it. Point out that it is neither feasible nor desirable for you respond to all the questions in the list. Instead of arbitrarily deciding which questions to answer, you are going to entrust the responsibility to a group of experts: the participants themselves. Although this process will require some time, it will be a worthwhile investment that will ensure return of relevance to participants.
Ask participants to review the questions. Invite them to eliminate these categories of questions:
Pause for a few minutes while participants complete this task.
Ask participants to select the first question. After a suitable pause, ask participants to review remaining questions and independently select the question they would like for you to answer first. This question should be a basic one that would contribute to a better understanding of subsequent questions.
Conduct an informal poll. Ask participants to shout out the identifying number of the question that they want to nominate as the first one to be answered. Encourage participants with same preferences to congregate together and outshout the others. After a few moments' chaos, decide the most “popular” first question by asking participants to raise their hands as you call out each of the loudly nominated numbers.
Respond to the question. Keep your presentation brief and to the point. Encourage participants to listen carefully and to take notes.
Pause for reflection. After your response, ask participants to individually jot down a single sentence that captures and summarizes the most important point from your presentation.
Identify the next question. Ask participants to review other questions in the list. Point out that the importance of specific questions might have increased or decreased as a result of your previous response. Repeat the earlier informal polling to identify the next question to be answered.
Repeat the process. Answer the second question and pause for personalized summaries. Poll participants to identify the next question to be answered.
Generate more questions. Set aside the last 5 minutes for participants to write questions that should have been in the original list but were not. Collect these questions and briefly answer one or two of them. Tell participants that you will post brief answers to the remaining questions in your website. Make this promise only if you plan to fulfill it. Alternatively, offer to answer the remaining questions during your next guest appearance.
What if you have too many questions from the audience? Randomly select about 15 questions and type them up in your list. Explain to participants that the list contains a representative sample.
What if some critical questions are left out? This feeling usually arises from megalomania on your part. Add your “critical” questions to the list. Confess to participants that you have added a few questions but do not identify which ones are yours. Serves you right if your questions get eliminated or ignored by participants.
What if nobody collected questions from the audience beforehand? Prepare your own list of frequently-asked questions and use it instead. Be sure to include some naïve, trivial, redundant, and smart-aleck questions in the list.
What if some participants are upset because their question did not get answered? Invite them to email their questions to you.
What if you don't want to type all the questions? Ask the organizer to type up the questions and send it to you by email. You can create and modify the list any way you want to. Alternatively, request participants to email the questions directly to you. You can then copy and paste the questions to a single list.
For the past two months, we have been revisiting interactive lectures. Interactive lectures incorporate highly motivating game elements but give you complete control of the instructional session.
In the previous issue of PFP, we summarized six interactive lecture formats. Here are brief summaries of six more formats.
Basic idea. A brief and powerful experiential activity is followed by a debriefing discussion to elicit and share useful insights.
Application. This lecture game is especially useful when the instructional content involves counter-intuitive principles, attitudes, and values.
Sample topics. Addictive behavior. Cultural Diversity. Everyday racism. Gender discrimination. Lateral thinking. One-way communication. Shifting paradigms.
Flow. Conduct your experiential activity without lengthy introduction. When the activity is finished, explain that different people may have had different insights from the activity. You will now conduct a six-step structured debriefing to help maximize learning. Start by asking participants how they feel. Then help them recollect the experiential activity. For the third step, encourage participants to generalize. State some general principles, and ask participants to provide evidence from the experiential activity, or from real life, to support or reject the principles. In the fourth step, help participants relate the activity to the real world. For the fifth step, ask speculative, what-if questions. Finally, for the sixth step, ask participants how they would behave differently if the activity were repeated. Help them generalize by asking them how they might change their real-world behavior.
Basic idea. Participants write closed and open questions and gain points by answering each others' questions.
Application. This interactive lecture is useful with any type of instructional content.
Sample topics. Interviewing customers. Doing business in France. Nutrition. Time management. Using the Internet. Chemical hazards.
Flow. The activity consists of three parts. During the first part, participants listen to a lecture, taking careful notes. During the second part, each participant writes a closed question on a card. During the next 7 minutes, participants repeatedly pair up and answer each other's questions, scoring one point for each correct answer. During the third part, each participant writes an open question. During the next 7 minutes, participants repeatedly organize them into triads. Two participants answer each question and the person who gave the better response earns a point.
Basic idea. Presenter uses examples to explain several related concepts. Later, participants generate examples to demonstrate their mastery.
Application. This lecture game is especially useful when the instructional content deals with a set of related concepts.
Sample topics. Architectural styles. Domains of learning. Personality types. Propaganda techniques.
Flow. Present the conceptual framework and explain the relationship among the concepts. Define each concept by identifying its critical and variable features. Illustrate with several examples. Ask participant teams to come up with a different example of the concept. Ask the teams to present their examples. Question the teams for clarification. Give appropriate feedback on each team's examples, highlighting the critical and variable features. Continue with your presentation, defining, explaining, and illustrating other concepts. Conclude by reviewing the concepts and relating them to each other.
Basic idea. Participants write several summaries of a lecture, repeatedly reducing its length.
Application. This interactive lecture is particularly useful with factual, conceptual, or informational content that can be effectively summarized.
Sample topics. Technology breakthroughs. Collaborative problem solving. Computer graphics. Personality types. Descriptive writing. Online learning.
Flow. Ask participants to listen carefully to your presentation, taking notes. After the presentation, ask teams to prepare a 32-word summary of your lecture. Listen to the summaries from different teams and select the best one. Now ask teams to rewrite the summary in exactly 16 words, retaining the key ideas and borrowing thoughts and words from other teams' earlier summaries. Repeat the process, asking teams to successively reduce the length of the summary to eight, four, and two-words. Finally, ask each participant to write an individual summary of appropriate length.
Basic idea. Presenter tells a story that illustrates different steps in a process. Teams of participants create and present their own stories.
Application. This lecture game is especially useful for exploring a procedure or a process.
Sample topics. Instructional system design. Creative problem solving. Stages in team development. Change management. Recovering from depression.
Flow. Distribute a diagram that identifies the steps of the process. Present your story, frequently referring to the diagram. Distribute a summary of the story, with notes that identify the different steps. Divide participants into teams of three to five members each. Ask each team to create a story to illustrate the process. Suggest that the story could be based on a team member's experience, a historical event, or a popular TV show: After a suitable pause, randomly choose teams to present their stories. Comment on these stories and conclude with suitable caveats about the limitations of the process.
Basic idea. Presenter conducts a coaching session with an individual participant. Other participants observe and learn vicariously.
Application. This lecture game is especially useful when the instructional content involves procedures or principles.
Sample topics. How to design a form. How to design a frequency table. How to write an ad. How to construct a test.
Flow. Assemble a full set of practice materials and samples. Set up a table and a couple of chairs in the middle of the room. Invite participants to surround the table and watch the action. Distribute copies of handouts to all participants. Select a learner from the group. Explain that you will be coaching this learner and that you want the other participants to vicariously participate in the process. Begin the coaching session. Demonstrate the procedure. Invite the learner to ask questions. Require the learner to demonstrate what he or she has learned. From time to time, switch the learner with another participant and continue the procedure. At the end of the session, encourage participants to ask questions. Finish the session by giving an independent exercise.
We will publish more summaries of interactive lectures in the coming months.
Here's an experiential introduction to this activity:
What is your preferred technique for learning something new?
Write your answer on a piece of paper. If you don't have a piece of paper, just say your answer out aloud.
I am now going to ask you a different question. Once again, write down your answer (or say it out aloud).
What method do you usually use to train other people?
Compare your answers to the two questions. Are they consistent with each other? If not, why is there a discrepancy between the way you like to learn and the way you train others? Should you not help others learn the same way you like to learn?
Does this inconsistency exist because you believe that training is different from learning? Don't you believe that training has to result in learning?
Does this inconsistency exist because you believe that your learning preference is unique only to you? Don't you think that other people may have unique learning preferences? How does your training accommodate these individual differences?
One of the advantages of having a group of participants is that you can collect valuable information from and share them with everyone. A few obstacles hamper such this strategy. Some types of questions (example: Have you ever visited a pornographic website?) require anonymity to obtain truthful data. With less intrusive questions, you may require participants to write or select their answers. Usually, you don't have time to analyze the data analysis and provide feedback within the short period of 99 seconds.
To explore inconsistencies in participants' responses to two related questions.
You ask participants to rapidly respond to a pair of questions, one after another. The questions are related to each other, but you don't emphasize this fact. After participants have given their responses, you point out that most responses reveal some fundamental inconsistencies. You ask a series of probing questions to focus attention on these inconsistencies.
Create your question pair. Write two related questions that approach the same topic from opposite directions: Here are some samples:
Write probing questions. Prepare questions to focus participants' attention on the inconsistency between their two answers. Use these questions to investigate the causes and consequences of these inconsistencies. For samples, refer to the questions from the introductory example.
Brief participants. Explain that you are going to ask them a series of questions. Ask them to rapidly write down the first answer that to each question that pops into their minds.
Ask the first question. Remind them to write an immediate answer. Pause briefly while participants write the answer.
Ask participants to turn the piece of paper over so the written side is hidden. Tell them that you are going to ask another question. As before, they have to write the answer immediately.
Ask the second question. Do not point out that this question is related to the first one. Pause briefly while participants write their answers.
Ask participants to compare the two answers. Point out that the questions are related to each other. Invite participants to raise their hands if the two answers are consistent with each other. Usually, you will get very few people raising their hands.
Discuss the inconsistencies. Explain that most participants find inconsistencies between the two answers. Ask probing questions to explore the inconsistencies. Use a helpful guiding tone rather than a righteous provocative tone. Because of the limited time, invite participants to just think of the answers rather than discuss them with each other.
This column features interviews with outstanding designers and users of interactive experiential strategies. Our guest this month is Alan Richter, founder and president of New York City-based QED Consulting, an organization that has been providing consulting and training in the HRD, OD, and change-management arena for the past 15 years. Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Alan lived for a decade in London, England, where he earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy, and won the British National Scrabble Championship. He worked as a games and word puzzles designer for a while before beginning management consulting. One of Alan's best-known games is The Diversity Game.
The interviewer this month is PFP associate editor Les Lauber.
Les: How did you get started in designing and using games?
Alan: The Scrabble championship led to working on computer Scrabble during the early 80s, which were exciting times for computer games. Then I broadened out to educational and entertainment games, and then on to games for business education.
Les: Where do you use games in your work?
Alan: I use games in many of the training programs that I design, even though most are for managers and executives. Games have become part of our programs on diversity, change management, and leadership development.
Les: How do your clients respond to your approach?
Alan: Some participants need some persuasion to try and most are open to them. But with some, you can lead a horse to water…
Les: How do the participants respond to games?
Alan: Most participants love games. It's only natural given the expectation that they'll be lectured at in most training. Occasionally, there are a few participants who withdraw — and that's OK, especially if the games are team-oriented and so the focus is not on individual performance.
Les: What advice do you have for newcomers to this field?
Alan: Focus on the clarity of design. The games' objectives and sequence should be clear.
Use innovative approaches. Employ an unusual title, metaphor, format, and other things that would not normally be associated with the training topic.
Sell, sell, sell. Communicate the benefits and motivational aspects of the game in advance.
Les: What makes effective facilitators?
Alan: Facilitators need to be clear communicators, proactive planners, and capable of listening like crazy. By proactive, I mean they need to anticipate the questions that will be asked, the difficulties players may have, and the resistance they may encounter. Good facilitators also know good timing: when to move from one phase to the next and when to conclude the game.
Les: Do you have any book recommendations?
Alan: I recently reviewed Word Freak by Stephan Fatsis. The author tells the story of a professional Scrabble player. He joined their ranks initially as a sports writer for the Wall Street Journal. He gets right into the life of the game from the creator's, player's, organizer's and publisher's perspectives. This is a great book to read for and it provides a wonderful peek into Scrabble players' inner sanctum.
Les: What is your prediction about the future of games?
Alan: How far out in the future do you want to look? Since games are part of who we are as humans, I am sure we'll see intergalactic game variations and new game creations as we migrate into space.
Puzzles that combine words and symbols (such as rebuses) have been around since ancient times. I use these word puzzles as a reward for people who come to the training session and return from their breaks on time. I have also incorporated word puzzles in activities to highlight teamwork, creative problem solving, and individual differences.
Here's an example. Can you guess a phrase that is suggested by the following?
The correct answer is Good afternoon. Get it? The word “noon” comes after the word “good”. So the phrase is Good afternoon.
Tom Underwood has collected and created a book of these word puzzles. His book Wuzzles for Presenters (Jossey-Bass, ISBN: 0787951218) contains more than a hundred pages of these word puzzles categorized into such topics as business, communications, customer service, and health care.
Here are six more word puzzles for you to solve:
Here's a creativity exercise for you: After solving the word puzzles, see if you can incorporate the basic principles to create your own variations. Send us your puzzles and we will publish them in a future issue of PFP.
In the October issue of PFP we presented the following scenario:
Imagine that you are planning to start a corporation that produces, distributes, and facilitates interactive materials and methods for improving human performance. Your product line will include training games and simulations and will go beyond them to explore other participatory strategies. Your products will be used in both face-to-face and online environments.
Then we offered the following challenge:
Write a mission statement for your organization. This statement will be incorporated in your business plan and prominently displayed in your marketing brochure. Your mission statement should be 32 words long. Exactly 32 words—no more, no less.
Ann Busby (from Washington, DC) contributed two mission statements:
Regardless of your delivery method, whether face-to-face, or online, your training courses will become more powerful, transformative and more fun with our learning games and simulations that explore participatory strategies.
Participatory learning through games and simulations: that's what our company offers regardless of your delivery method, i.e. face-to-face or online; transform your business with our trustworthy, powerful and effective tools.
Marty Cielens (from Blackwood, South Australia) contributed this mission statement:
Pathways to performance through participation. Use learning partnerships to help our clients build paths to new business horizons on the foundations of innovative learning strategies, simple technologies, collaborative learning and exciting ideas.
Tatiana A. Kolovou (from Bloomington, IN) contributed this:
We provide the tools and toys to explore organizations' human potential through interactive, creative and game oriented learning. Our products are designed to reach companies and their employees wherever they learn best.
Greg Cindric (from Siemens Health Services) played the role of Old McDonald and contributed this mission:
Our mission is to corral all neighsayers and quacks who bark up the wrong tree then send them out to pasture, resulting in improved organizational and employee performance here, there, and everywhere.
To review the contest entries, I used an international panel of judges: Linda Carriveau, Ann Christoffersen, Michelle Cohen, Helen Coleman, Yvette Duncan, Darrin Heaps, Mark Oehlert, Shannon Palmer-Handley, Robert Radner, Robert Smith, Charlette Stout, Brian Thompson, Armi Trenas, Denise Van Tassell, James Webb, and Richard Wood.
All of the five entries were selected by at least one judge.
Six judges selected Tatiana Kolovou's mission statement.
Here's a comment from one of the judges about Tatiana's entry: This mission statement captures the message most simply and elegantly. I like the juxtaposition of the words “tools” and “toys” to show that our product is serious and legitimate, yet enjoyable. The “wherever they learn best” encompasses more than simply the face-to-face vs. online distinction. The whole statement gives a sense that the sky is the limit (as it is in human potential!)
Congratulations, Tatiana! You win a $50 gift certificate. Please visit our online store to claim your prize.
Mary Cielens was a close second with five votes. Here's a comment from one of the judges about Marty's entry: It immediately identifies the focus—performance—which is what organizations are interested in and identifies the approaches: innovative learning strategies, simple technologies, collaborative learning, and exciting ideas.
Participate in the follow-up contest this month. It requires only half the effort of the original contest, and it is a lot of fun.
Jack in the box.
Quit following me.
Top of the morning.
In the October issue of PFP, we invited our readers to imagine that they are planning to start a corporation that produces, distributes, and facilitates interactive materials and methods for improving human performance. We challenged them to write a mission statement for the organization, in exactly 32 words—no more, no less.
Check the results of this contest. Review the entries carefully, because this month's contest builds on the previous one.
The challenge for this month uses the same scenario with a slight twist: Write a mission statement for your organization exactly 16 words—no more, no less.
Hints: Feel free to check the additional information given for the earlier contest and to creatively incorporate interesting concepts and words from the previous (32 word) version.
Once you have written the mission statement (and double-checked the word count), send it to us. If our panel of judges decide that your mission to be the best one, you win a $50 gift certificate.
You cannot play the same game twice.
I borrowed the frame for this statement from Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived before Socrates. The original statement was: “It is impossible to step into the same river twice.”
When you play a game for the first time, you don't know what the experience will be like. When you play the same game for the second time, your experience is different because you are at a different level of mastery. When you continue playing the game several more times, your experience continues to change as your skill level increases.
When you play the same game with other players, your experience keeps changing. The nature of the game changes because people have different styles of play.
Even when you play the same game with the same players, your experience feels different every time you play it. Small changes in your behavior and in the behavior of your teammates and in the behaviors of your opponents produce major changes in the outcomes of the game.
Even when you play a solitaire game on a computer, the game changes from one round to the next. For example, when you play the Freecell game bundled with the Windows® operating system, the software program deals the 52 playing cards in different combinations. You behave differently and game feels different.
Replayability is the technical name for the phenomenon that makes your game experience feel different every time you play it. This desirable feature is what makes popular games addictive. Effective games balance skill and chance in such a way that they do not become a test by depending exclusively on skill or become a lottery by depending exclusively on chance.
Whenever you design a game, aim for a nice blend of skill and chance.